So you wanna be a real music producer ah? Ok this is what I think.
First you need to have the ability to learn stuff online and learn on your own. You must have patience because when you’re developing your production skills things are moving extra slow. You have to be able to objectively critique yourself and always compare your “sound” to other’s and be able to tell if you made any progress. You have to be able to absorb many music genres, even those you don’t naturally like (Trust me). And of course, you must have TALENT. Music production is not a thing you can do without great musical talent. Let’s start.
Hi everybody, Avi here. I’m a music producer and I’m making music for a living for 15 years now. It was a very interesting ride for me so far. A lot of ups and downs as in most things in life.
In this article, I’m going to share with you everything I think about being a music producer, what kind if music producers we have today and what it takes to be one. First let me tell you something, to earn my first dollar from music production took a few years for me. but I started back in the late 90’s so these days are totally different. Today we have more tools we pay less money, we have access to an endless amount of knowledge online and more than enough role models and potential mentors. These days it seams like everybody’s making music which is a good thing in my opinion.
I have a whole article about myself and how I started making music. Read here.
This was a different time and it was a different story for me. It’ll make you feel good to know that today it is much much easier to start producing music professionally. If you’re good and fast you can produce amazing stuff within your first two years. Still, the music producer requirements are the same.
For me there are 3 main types of producers. The most common one it the “Laptop Producers”.
First I’ll tell you that most famous producers today are Laptop Producers.
They make all of their productions in the box without physical instruments or tools.
There’s nothing wrong with that of course, this is how the EDM genre work for example, you don’t need more then a laptop. And it becomes this way in a lot of other genres.
The second type is the more traditional type of producers, they are living in studios most of the time. They’re working with studio musicians, engineers, and artists. These are the old world producers that still exists today in the more classic genres like Rock, Pop, Country, Jazz, Classical, music for movies and such.
The 3rd type is what I like to call “Hybrid”. These are guys like me who are sitting in their own personal studio, recording real live instruments (Guitars, Bass, Drums, Keyboards etc) mixed with virtual instruments, soft synths and sample based plugins.
Many of them are working with studio musicians that are coming in to record their parts in the production. Few special producers are playing all the instruments by themselves. This is my favourite type, this is me.
It takes years to master an instrument, or at least get to a high enough level of playing that allows you to record professional sounding tracks. Let alone doing it on multiple instruments. In my case, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums.
First, you have to decide which out of the three types of producers I’ve mentioned above do you want to be. These days most people are drawn into being laptop producers, and it’s great. it is definitely the easiest to start out of the three types but it is without a doubt the most complicated.
It is not easy to make a good EDM or any electronic production, mostly because of all the options and tools you have at your disposal. There are so many styles and genres and you have to find your own sound inside all of these. Sure you can be a copy cat and sound like many others and also find success but it is much more rewarding to find your own “sound” and let others copy you.
To be a good laptop producer you must get very familiar with your chosen DAW and your synths and samples. You must already have the experience, the talent and enough “air time” on your music spaceship. I can’t tell you exactly when it is going to happen, but you know when you’ll get there.
It is recommended to have a strong enough laptop because music inside the box is very CPU demanding. Get the most capable system you can get.
Also, I recommend you to get the gear that makes you feel like making music. Yes, there is such a thing. For example, I started using Cubase years ago and I was fast as hell on it! I could create a full 3 minutes good piece of music in 30 minutes.
But when I finally started working with Logic my music have gotten a lot better in a matter of weeks.
Also, it sounded much better but this is another subject. You have to love your tools. Whether it is your DAW, your MIDI keyboard, your audio interface, and even your plugins. Remember it all starts with pure love and passion for what we’re doing.
If you want to be a classic music producer it is important to sharpen your people skills.
Most of the classic producers I’ve known were very skilled in the personal domain.
You have to know how to talk to people, how to express yourself and get people to do what you want them to do without hurting their egos. You also have to learn how to get musicians to play what you need them to play. Most of the practical work of a producer in a studio is to deal with the artist which is not an easy task. A lot of times I found myself making verbal figure eight loops just to get my point thru and make the artist understand my artistic decisions. At the end of the day, you are working with a client and he or she has to understand and live in piece with the idea of working with you.
Play an instrument and learn most of the characteristics of as many instruments as you can.
I always recommend to start with an instrument that can show you every possible option below your fingers, of course it is most likely to be keyboards. Learn to play the keyboards even if your main instrument is guitar or bass or even drums. Always listen to music from a technical point of view.
They say that once you understand what you’re listening to, you can’t avoid the details and sometimes lose your ability to simply enjoy listening to music with an average consumer’s ear. It is true. In my opinion, you don’t lose your ability to enjoy music, you just enjoy the more advanced stuff. it’s very cool 🙂
Hybrid producers are in an interesting sweet spot. They don’t have to work with too many people because they are doing most of the artistic heavy lifting themselves. They are considered by the artist to be a complete wizard. Yes, we are the “Gandalfs” of the music production in our own “middle earth” 🙂
To avoid any unwanted artistic clashes the artist must listen to the previous productions you’ve made, and has to love and relate to them.
You also have to sit with the artist before you start working on a basic demo for them and listen to all kinds of references together so it’ll be easier for the both of you to get locked on a specific direction for the song.
It is always a good idea to ask the artists which artists and genres they like and what he or she are listening to these days. This info will give you a few cool hacking cheats into those artists souls.
As a hybrid producer you have to have good instruments. Say you play guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, If you have the money it’s ok, buy great quality instruments. But if you’re just starting and you need to spread your budget across few instruments not including the rest of the studio equipment I recommend not buying the best of the best, you just don’t need it, trust me. Unless you have the money to spend of course.
The only good instruments you should have is your main instrument and the once who are “naked sounding” like acoustic guitars. I found out that you can’t run away or manipulate a bad sounding acoustic instrument into a good sounding one. just buy a good one and get cheap on the other ones.
For years I’ve recorded bass tracks with a cheap bass guitar that cost around 300$. I just went to the store, played on and listen to few guitars in different price ranges and picked to best one of the low range bass guitars. trust me, I couldn’t tell the difference in quality in the store, it was all down to personal taste. The point is that you don’t have to have the best of every instrument to get a good result.
You have to remember in “living” instruments as I call them, You can have two of the same guitar, same company with the same price and the sound is totally different. So sometimes it comes down to a personal preference. I could swear that my 300$ bass guitar sounded better than these other bass guitars that cost three times as much.
I must add that this does not work on electric guitar. You should have a good electric guitar if you want good clean sounds. of course, if your genre is death metal and all you do id heavy distortion you can go with an OK electric guitar. But in most cases, you would want a guitar that will give you a wide range of good sounds so you won’t have to buy 4 different electric guitars.
The rest of your budget you’ll spend on your studio equipment. In general, I recommend that you don’t get too cheap on the microphones you use. Get one good dynamic microphone and one very good condenser microphone. Of course, if you’re going big and planning on recording drums then you need to have a much bigger budget to work with, not just on microphones but on the right rooms and wiring. The right console or preamps box, the right acoustics and more. Personally, I don’t recommend that you record drums on your own and do what most producers are doing. We just go to a big studio with our drummer and a guide track, record everything we need for the song and return back to our studio to continue from there.
If you really want to be a producer I strongly recommend to you find yourself a couple of heroes. We are all looking up to someone and you should too. If you’re going to work with artists that are writing lyrics always consider the lyrics to be the most important part of the song and this is the absolute truth.
If you can work with an artist and make his lyrics better in some way do it! Trust me, you can have the most amazing production under the most weak ass lyric content and it will all go to waste.
OK, PEOPLE! I can’t stress this enough, if you work with talentless artists just to make money they will delay and even prevent you from succeeding. I mean it. When you work with talentless artists your endless production hours just go to waste. Nobody will like the song, nobody will look for its producer, nobody will remember your name if you put it on low-quality art. SIMPLE AS THAT.
If you can’t afford not working with artists that you know that will not give you anything just find a side job and invest your time, skills and talent in your own creation. In my world, people always remembered the songs I’ve written for myself and for other artists.
Sometimes you need to make sure new people find out about you. This is one of the most important things in this music business. Sometimes we forget that this is a business and treat it like a hobby for years. This is not how you succeed in the music business.
First you need to work with social media, get creative, post cool stuff you did in the past on a continuous basis, Send personal messages to artists, introduce yourself, put links to your productions, Build a good representing website for your online music persona and even build paid campaigns on social media an search engines.
If you don’t know how to do it yourself, pay for someone to do it for you. Also, work on SEO for your website. You must rank high for your preferred keywords in search engines. This is a whole bible by itself but never dismiss it. You’ll regret it trust me.
Read and learn something every day. Look for new stuff to learn, listen to the latest playlists and radio stations in your chosen genre, search for cool new tools or plugins that you might like. Always stay on top of things and get updated continuously. music production is an ever changing field and if you are not changing and evolving with it you would stay behind.
My Personal Lessons After 15 Years Of Being A Music Producer
Build your assets. I mean always write songs if you also a song writer. I have songs I’ve written a few years ago that still are making me passive income in royalties every year. Try to get your songs and productions to known artists and always be trying to get closer to them and their people.
This is what we call “The right connections”. Always try to help people and maybe one day they will do something for you that will change your life forever.
ALWAYS BE GOOD TO PEOPLE.
Good Luck 🙂